Portland’s five mayoral candidates will participate in a debate next month hosted by the Portland Press Herald and the University of New England.

The candidates – Pious Ali, Justin Costa, Mark Dion, Dylan Pugh and Andrew Zarro – are vying to replace Mayor Kate Snyder, who announced last year that she would not seek a second term in office. All of the candidates have agreed to participate.

The debate will take place Oct. 3 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at UNE’s Innovation Hall in Portland. The event is free and open to the public and will also be livestreamed on the Press Herald’s website. Advance registration is required; visit pressherald.com/mayoraldebate.

The event will be moderated by Press Herald reporters Grace Benninghoff and Rachel Ohm. The public can submit questions ahead of the debate.

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Ali was reelected to his third term on the City Council last fall. Dion and Zarro are nearing the end of their first terms on the council. Costa served on the council from 2014 to 2020. Pugh is a political newcomer.


The race will be decided using ranked-choice voting. It comes as the city is grappling with an unprecedented number of homeless people, recent influxes of asylum seekers and an affordable housing crisis.

This is the first year of Portland’s new clean elections program, which provides municipal campaign funding to qualifying candidates who choose to participate. The program was set up by the City Council this spring after voters approved its creation last November.

To get city funding, candidates must submit a set number of $5 qualifying contributions based on the office they’re seeking. Qualifying mayoral candidates receive an initial $40,000 and are eligible to collect $60,000 more throughout the election based on additional qualifying contributions.

Out of the five candidates, only Zarro and Costa qualified for the program. Pugh said he opted out of the program because of problems he saw with the way the system was set up. Dion who did not attempt to register as a clean elections candidate, has said he is opposed to using tax money to subsidize candidates. Ali also did not sign up for the program.

A sixth Portland resident, George Rheault, has registered as a write-in candidate, the city confirmed Monday. His name will not appear on ballots but any voters who write in his name will be counted. Write-in candidates do not have to collect signatures like those who appear on the ballot, but are required to submit campaign finance reports.

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